September To-Read List!

Remember how I said that I usually don’t do TBRs? I found last month’s TBR so helpful that I’m going to try to keep doing them for a while! I don’t know if I’ll keep this up indefinitely, but I have a LOT of books to read and this has at least been helping me stay organized.

I’m looking at my TBR not as a to-do list but as a menu of options I can choose from to read. I think that’s taking the pressure off of me quite a bit — and it allows me to not feel quite so guilty for not finishing every single book I have on my list.

August TBR Stats

Pile 1: #SummerOfPLL Reads
Amount completed: 6/9
Carrying over: 0

Pile 2: Library Books
Amount completed: 8/8
Carrying over: 0

Pile 3: ARC August!
Amount completed: 5/18
Carrying over: 12

Non-TBR Books Read: 1 (not including the ARC I read before I made my TBR)

I finished all of my library books! I also finished all of the main Pretty Little Liars books, but did not get to the companion ones and I’ve made my peace with that. The ARCs did not get the attention they needed in August, so they’re getting bumped forward to September!

September’s TBR

Pile 1: New Books

I have a lot of books that I’ve preordered or purchased while they were discounted on Amazon and haven’t read this year, and I feel really bad because I really want to read them. So, my first target area for September is filled with them!

  • Pride Must Be A Place by Kevin Craig
  • Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi
  • Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid
  • The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotic by David Arnold
  • The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse
  • Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather
  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  • #murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil
  • If Only by Jennifer Gilmore
  • To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin
  • The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
  • Life Inside My Mind anthology
  • We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
  • Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi
  • The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
  • Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
  • Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen
  • Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
  • That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger
  • Sadie by Courtney Summers
  • Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
  • You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino
  • A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
  • Soft on Soft by Em Ali

Pile 2: ARCs

This pile has two parts: the ARCs that I’m carrying over from August, and the ARCs that are new to the September pile.

Sub-pile: Carryover ARCs

  • Disbanded Kingdom by Polis Loizou
  • Rules of the Ruff by Heidi Lang
  • Love Letters to Jane’s World by Paige Braddock
  • The Adventures of Wilhelm: A Rat’s Tale by Maria Ritter
  • The Lost Art of Reading by David L. Ulin
  • The Splintered Light by Ginger Johnson
  • Big Words Small Stories: The Missing Donut by Judith Henderson
  • The Ghost Road by Charis Cotter
  • Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground by T.R. Simon
  • Unbroken Anthology
  • Black Diamond Fall by Joseph Olshan
  • Trans Teen Survival Guide by Owl Fisher and Fox Fisher

Sub-pile: New ARCs

  • Sleep, Sheep! by Kerry Sparrow
  • I am Small by Qin Leng
  • How to Read Donald Duck by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart
  • Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • Unwritten by Tara Gilboy
  • Histories of the Transgender Child by Julian Gill-Peterson
  • The Spy With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
  • Salt by Hannah Moskowitz
  • The Chaos of Now by Erin Jade Lange

Pile 3: Library Books

You know that thing where you finish all of your library books and go to the library to return them and then somehow walk out carrying more library books? Yep, I did that. It’s okay, though — libraries are GOOD!

  • One True Way by Shannon Hitchcock
  • Book Scavenger: The Unbreakable Code by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
  • The Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella
  • Black Panther: The Young Prince by Ronald L. Smith
  • The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
  • Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America by Nathaniel Frank

Do I think there’s any possible way I’m going to finish all of these in September? Pfft, no… There are 53 books on this list! My goal is to try to give myself options while still reading the books I actually need to read, and I think this does that, right?

What are you hoping to read in September?

March Wrap-up!

I am a tired human being and have not been updating as often as I would like. I don’t feel like I’m reading as much as I’d like, either, although I’m still reading quite a bit. I’m still here, still chugging along, and still trying to post when I’m not falling asleep at my keyboard. I’m working on getting back into the swing of things — whatever those “things” are — and while this is a little later than I’d like it to be, I still want to update with my March reads!

Reads for March

Here’s all I read in March:

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

Dark Screams: Volume Ten (ARC) edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar — 3 of 5 stars — review here!

Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds — 5 of 5 stars

Meet Me In The Strange (ARC) by Leander Watts — 2 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson — 5 of 5 stars

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold — 5 of 5 stars

American Street by Ibi Zoboi — 5 of 5 stars

The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

Kitchen Table Tarot by Melissa Cynova — 5 of 5 stars

Maus I by Art Spiegelman — 5 of 5 stars

Maus II by Art Spiegelman — 5 of 5 stars

 

Reading stats:

  • Number of books read: 12
  • Number of nonfiction books: 3
  • Number of ARCs: 2
  • Number of books by marginalized authors: ~8
  • Number of books read for class: 2
  • Number of library books: 6

Okay, I think I actually read more than I thought I did this month — I only read 9 books in February, so 12 for March is actually pretty good in comparison. I guess it’s mostly about perspective. I really need to read more ARCs — I went on a requesting spree on NetGalley because I thought there was no way that most publishers would actually say yes to me, and now I have a list 15 books long just on NetGalley… And that’s not even all of my ARCs. April to-do list?

On The Personal Side…

I’m almost exactly two months away from graduation and I’m SLIGHTLY panicking about it because I’ve been a student for two solid decades and I have no idea how not to be a student. The last time I wasn’t a student, I was three years old — three-year-old me isn’t exactly the ideal person for twenty-three-year-old me to turn to for life advice. I am pretty thrilled that I’ll have a graduate degree in just a couple months, and I’m really lucky that I’ve been able to do this.

I’m thinking more about my online presence and about possibly starting a Patreon to support my writing, both on my blog and my own stories. I’m still working out the details and how I’m feeling about it, but this might be a thing soon! Many Patreon rewards would be Coco-related, so if you like cute cats that’d be a good place to put your money, maybe? Speaking of Coco, she has a Twitter now! You can follow her at @CocoTheTux, where she Tweets out photos and self-care messages. Coco loves self-care.

I’ve been trying harder to cook more despite my exhaustion, and I’ve been trying Blue Apron to help with this and found that I really like it. A lot of the vegetarian dishes use tomato paste and I’ve been swapping that ingredient out for peanut butter (seriously!) quite a bit and have had really good results. Also, I have like five free boxes available to give to friends, so if anyone would like one just shoot me an email at librarybenni@gmail.com and I’d be happy to give you one (US only). (This isn’t sponsored — I’ve just been given more free boxes for friends than I actually have friends and wouldn’t mind giving some away to people who want some free food!)

What did you read in March? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Queer Couples!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is a love freebie, and so I’m choosing to focus on queer couples from my 2017 and 2018 reads this week! Here are my favorites:

10.) The Peskin-Suso Moms, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Cassie and Molly Peskin-Suso’s moms are on the shortlist of my favorite book parents ever, and while they weren’t main characters I still felt that they deserved a place on this list.

9.) Andrew and Rusty, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

Andrew and Rusty didn’t have a perfect relationship in the hospital, but I really loved how their relationship played out later. Had we seen more of the healthy elements, I would have put them further up on this list.

8.) Ramona and Freddie, Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Overall I really loved Ramona and Freddie; Ramona was still figuring her sexuality out, and Freddie tried to support her as much as he could. They’re lower on this list because Freddie’s ignorance bugged me a few times, but overall I really liked them.

7.) Echo and Zara, Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

Echo and Zara had quite a bit going on behind the scenes (pardon the pun) during their relationship… They weren’t perfect, but they had great chemistry and were a nice pair.

6.) Odessa and Meredy, Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Odessa and Meredy had an adorable hate-to-love romance. They had several issues to start with, but their bonding and chemistry was really touching.

5.) Alice and Takumi, Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Alice and Takumi are just adorable. They were really sweet together and made a solid effort to figure out how to make the relationship work as well as it could for them. They were respectful and very, very sweet.

4.) Grace and Eva, How To Make A Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

Grace and Eva’s chemistry captivated me from the first page they shared together. I loved all of the sneaking around into lighthouses and the bonding they did through their struggles in their lives.

3.) Taylor, Theo, and Josey, 3 by Hannah Moskowitz

Best. Trio. Ever. Did I want to be there with these three wonderful characters as their story progressed? Yes. Yes I did.

2.) Simon and Blue, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Is there really any question about this one?

1.) Rufus and Mateo, They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera

Rufus and Mateo stole my heart and then made me cry. Thanks, Silvera.

Who are your favorite queer couples in books? Let me know in the comments!

Review: The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

Author: Shaun David Hutchinson

Category: YA Contemporary (LGBTQIAP+)

Publisher/Date: Simon Pulse/20 January 2015

Edition: ebook

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20500616-the-five-stages-of-andrew-brawley

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Five-Stages-Andrew-Brawley/dp/1481403109/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-five-stages-of-andrew-brawley-shaun-david-hutchinson/1119701449?ean=9781481403108

Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night. His parents did, and so did his sister, but he survived.

Now he lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, he hangs out with the nurses, and he sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him.

Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, burned on half his body by hateful classmates. His agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together through all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside the hospital, and away from their pasts.

But Drew knows that life is never that simple. Death roams the hospital, searching for Drew, and now Rusty. Drew lost his family, but he refuses to lose Rusty, too, so he’s determined to make things right. He’s determined to bargain, and to settle his debts once and for all.

But Death is not easily placated, and Drew’s life will have to get worse before there is any chance for things to get better.

A partly graphic novel.

This book has content warnings for death, suicide/attempted suicide, suicidal thoughts, physical abuse, bullying, depressive behavior, self harm, hospitals, graphic depictions of medical procedures, and a car accident (off-page but described somewhat).

One of my favorite things about this book is how well it portrayed a teenager who had suffered through trauma. I was hooked from the second Andrew mentioned seeing “Death” — it’s pretty apparent from the start that who he is seeing isn’t really “Death,” but it immediately has you wondering just who he is referring to, then. Who is he so afraid of? He really is so convinced that it is Death who is roaming through the halls, looking to take him and others away, and his terror shines through. Andrew himself is convinced that these things — seeing Death everywhere, feeling a need to save everyone, being able to live in a hospital forever — are normal things even when they aren’t, and it was a really refreshing point of view to read that I just ate up.

Similar themes came through in Rusty’s character, as well. Rusty had his own trauma from being set on fire, and he developed a dependency on Andrew that played right into Andrew’s own trauma. There was an unhealthy element to it while they were in the hospital that they didn’t really figure out until later, and I loved how it showed how mental health can affect the relationships between people, both romantic and platonic. The resolution to this was really nice, and I really enjoyed seeing these two boys interact.

I also really loved Lexi and Trevor, Andrew’s friends from the children’s ward. I thought it was great to have Andrew make friends his own age inside the hospital to show him interacting with other teens, and I also really appreciated having a healthier blooming romance in the book to contrast against the one between Andrew and Rusty. Lexi and Trevor really contrasted Andrew’s need to be an “adult” who has to take care of himself and his need to be a regular teenager who likes to celebrate things and play games and talk to other people his own age.

Stylistically, I loved the added depth that the comics pages brought to the book. They were well-laid-out and brought an extra layer of characterization to Andrew as they gave us an extra way to see into his mind through his art. I also really appreciated the comics pages at the end of the book and thought they were a great way to wrap things up.

This book is a sad read. I loved the characters, but my heart was left hurting for them as I read. If you want something sad and sweet, this is an excellent book for you. Hutchinson’s writing really has a way of manipulating your emotions as you read, and this book shows just how much work he puts into his craft.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

February 2018 Preorders!

It’s a new month, which means new books coming out! I preordered my next batch of new releases during January, and almost all of my picks come out on the same day… Choosing what I want to read next week will be a bit of a struggle. I also only preordered ebooks this month, so my bookshelves will fill up a little slower and my iPad will be very happy to spend some more quality time with me.

Here are my February picks!

The Catch by Kat Helgeson

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 3 February 2018
Format: ebook
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B078WJXT8N/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515559331&sr=8-1&keywords=kat+helgeson

Teenage trapeze artists and friendship struggles? Yes, please! Kat Helgeson’s newest book comes out tomorrow, and it’s the only book I’ve preordered that does not release next Tuesday. Kat is a talented writer, so if you have $2.99 to buy an ebook, you should buy this one! (Also, it’s Kat’s birthday tomorrow and buying her book from her is a good present. Just sayin’.)

Pride Must Be A Place by Kevin Craig

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 6 February 2018
Format: ebook
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Pride-Must-Place-Kevin-Craig-ebook/dp/B078KJQZLZ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1515559417&sr=1-1&keywords=kevin+craig

I’ve been reading Kevin’s books since I was a teenager myself, and as someone who grew up queer in a small town who has done and continues to do the code-switching out/sort of out/not out, this story is right up my alley. I can’t wait to read it! (Like The CatchPride Must Be A Place is *also* only $2.99 — budget-friendly picks, here!)

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 6 February 2018
Format: ebook
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Apocalypse-Elena-Mendoza-Shaun-Hutchinson-ebook/dp/B074ZPXDF9/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

I’ve heard a lot of amazing things about this one, and Shaun David Hutchinson’s stories are so relatable and so “out there” at the same time and I just eat them up. If you like weird stories, this could be a good choice!

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 6 February 2018
Format: ebook
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Down-Across-Arvin-Ahmadi/dp/0425289877/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516668276&sr=8-1&keywords=down+and+across

Crossword puzzles and adventures — sounds like a great time, right? The highly relatable young adult theme of what the hell am I supposed to do with my life now is a huge draw for this book, and I’m really excited for a book like this one.

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 6 February 2018
Format: ebook
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/American-Panda-Gloria-Chao/dp/1481499106/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514630980&sr=1-1&keywords=american+panda

Every day I keep hearing more and more amazing things about this book and I get more and more excited about it arriving on my iPad next Tuesday. Mei’s parents want her to become a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, but she can’t handle germs and falls for her Japanese classmate. The struggles between parent and child desires here remind me of some of the similar themes in Love, Hate and Other Filters, which I loved, and American Panda promises to be funny and heartfelt. I have high hopes for this one!

What are you preordering for February? (Also, what the hell do I read first on the 6th of February?!) Let me know in the comments!

January 2018 Wrap-up!

So, I just want to start off this post with a few stats:

  • Number of posts in January: 20 (including this one)
  • Number of review posts in January: 7
  • Number of non-review posts in January: 13 (including this one)
  • Number of non-review posts in January that have an exclamation point in the title: 8 (including this one…)

I may need to cool it on the exclamation points just a BIT.

Anyways, this was a big blogging month for me. For a large part of the month before school hit me hard, I was posting daily, and even after that I managed to post at least twice a week. Considering how sparsely I’d been posting through all of 2017 despite starting this blog in January of last year, I feel like I’ve done a great job of getting myself in more of a routine with blogging. I still need to work on that, but it’s a start. In January 2018 alone, I almost doubled both the number of posts I’ve written AND how many page views I’ve gotten on the blog — doubling my stats from the entirety of last year. My blog is still really small, but that felt like a huge accomplishment.

Reads for January

This was a big reading month for me, too! Here’s all I read in January:

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp — 3.5 of 5 stars — review here!

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson — 4 of 5 stars — For class, so one of my only permitted rereads. Review here!

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo — 3 of 5 stars — review here!

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon — 5 of 5 stars — review here!

One Last Word by Nikki Grimes — 5 of 5 stars — an excellent poetry collection I read for class.

Hillary Rodham Clinton by Karen Blumenthal — 5 of 5 stars — a great biography with really nice writing.

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy — 4.5 of 5 stars — review here!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — 5 of 5 stars — I was fortunate enough to have been assigned this book for class, so I got to bypass my “no rereads” policy to read it again. One of my favorites.

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed — 5 of 5 stars — one of my favorites of the month. Don’t pass this one up. Review forthcoming!

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth — 4 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

Down In The Belly Of The Whale by Kelley Kay Bowles (ARC) — 1 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

See All The Stars by Kit Frick (ARC) — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green (ARC) — 3 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding (ARC) — 4.5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Cat Encyclopedia for Kids by Joanne Mattern (ARC) — 3 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci — 2 of 5 stars — library book that fell flat for me. It was weird and I don’t even want to review it because I don’t care enough.

Krazy: George Herriman, A Life In Black And White by Michael Tisserand — 5 of 5 stars — wonderful biography of one of my favorite comics creators. Review forthcoming!

Queerly Loving #2 edited by G Benson and Astrid Ohletz (ARC) — 5 of 5 stars — a wonderful anthology of queer stories. Review forthcoming!

Reading stats:

  • Number of books read: 20
  • Number of books read during the 24 in 48 Readathon: 10
  • Number of nonfiction books: 3
  • Number of ARCs: 6
  • Number of books by marginalized authors: ~13
  • Number of books read for class: 6
  • Number of library books: 5

It’s worth noting that almost all of the books I read that weren’t by marginalized authors were either ARCs I received or books I read for class. I really like supporting marginalized authors, so I’m happy with that number.

I clearly have a lot of reviews I need to write still! This is largely because all of those books were either read during or right before the 24 in 48 Readathon, and if I’d been reviewing as I went during the readathon there was no way I could have finished it. It’s okay, though — you’ll see those reviews in the coming months!

On The Personal Side…

January was a pretty okay month for me. I took a few risks that were at least worth taking even if they don’t pay off, and I have some great ideas for new projects. I want to write a cute YA romance between two enbies, one who is very secure with who they are and one who is questioning her gender, and I also want to design an independent study course for the final term of my master’s degree on library resources for comics studies. I really hope that works out!

I am just a few short months away from graduating with my master’s, which is weird. This is my 20th consecutive academic year since I first started going to preschool in fall of ’98, and since I don’t currently have plans to get another degree after I finish this one, I’m looking at an actual break from academia for the first time in two decades starting in June. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet. On the one hand, school is stressful, but on the other I don’t really know anything else.

February is the month where I hope that I can fine-tune my new plans for an actual blog post calendar, and the month where I hope to do more of my own writing. I want it to be a great month!

How was your January? Did you read anything you just adored? Do you have any cool February goals or plans?